What you might not know about the first editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price

The year 2020 marks a few significant anniversaries for three of the four standard works of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Here is a look at some interesting facts about the first editions of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.

1. Book of Mormon — 190 years

A Book of Mormon First Edition (1830) is on display during a preview of a new exhibit featuring some early documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. The new exhibit entitled “Foundations of Faith” includes 26 books, manuscripts and other historical documents that date back to the 19th century and the beginnings of the Church.
A Book of Mormon First Edition (1830) is on display during a preview of a new exhibit featuring some early documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014. The new exhibit entitled “Foundations of Faith” includes 26 books, manuscripts and other historical documents that date back to the 19th century and the beginnings of the Church. Credit: Ravell Call, Deseret News

First published: March 26, 1830, by Egbert B. Grandin in Palmyra, New York

Canonized: by the Lord through revelation before and after the Church’s organization on April 6, 1830 (see Doctrine and Covenants 17:6, 19:26, 20:8-11 and 42:12)

Cost to print: $3,000, paid by Martin Harris who mortgaged part of his farm

Number of copies: 5,000, more than twice the average number for a book at that time.

Price per copy: $1.75, later reduced to $1.25

Original manuscript: mostly lost to water damage after Joseph Smith stored it in a hollowed out cornerstone of the Nauvoo House in 1841. About 28% remains today.

Printer’s manuscript: a copy made by Oliver Cowdery for use in the printing process. Hyrum Smith delivered this manuscript to Grandin in portions at a time. It was passed down by the Cowdery and Whitmer families.

Both manuscripts are stored in the Church History Library

Read an 1841 edition of the Book of Mormon here.

2. Doctrine and Covenants — 185 years

Title page of The Doctrine and Covenants published in 1835. This copy belonged to Newell K. Whitney.
Title page of The Doctrine and Covenants published in 1835. This copy belonged to Newell K. Whitney. Credit: Joseph Smith Papers Project

First published: 1835, in Kirtland, Ohio

Canonized: Aug. 17, 1835, by a Church general assembly

Predecessor: The Book of Commandments; publication halted in 1833 due to a mob attack on the press, owned by William W. Phelps

Committee members: Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams

Price per copy: $1

The two parts of the 1835 edition:

  1. Seven lectures “on the doctrine of the church,” later known as the “Lectures on Faith.”
  2. Revelations received through Joseph Smith

Chapters in Book of Commandments: 65, the last one being incomplete

Sections in Doctrine and Covenants (1835): 103

Sections in Doctrine and Covenants today: 138

Read a first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants here.

3. Pearl of Great Price — 169 and 140 years

First published: 1851 by Franklin D. Richards in Liverpool, England

Canonized: Oct. 10, 1880, during general conference in Salt Lake City

First American edition published: 1878

1851 edition included

  • Parts of the Book of Moses (later expanded)
  • The Book of Abraham, including three facsimiles
  • Extracts from the history of Joseph Smith (Joseph Smith—History)
  • 13 statements from Times and Seasons, vol. III p. 709 (Articles of Faith)
  • Extract from Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible (Joseph Smith—Matthew)
  • Selections from the Doctrine and Covenants (later removed from the Pearl of Great Price or moved to the Doctrine and Covenants)
  • “Truth,” a poem by John Jaques (Hymn #272 “O Say, What is Truth?”)

Read a first edition of the Pearl of Great Price here.

Sources: Church History Topics essays; Joseph Smith Papers Project; From Darkness unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon; and How We Got the Doctrine and Covenants